|Volume 51 Number 3, January 30, 2021
Consolidating Covert and Overt Police Powers
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Conditions of Workers Under Threat from Owners of Tata Jaguar
The Peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea Will Be their Own Liberators:
Concerns over Humanitarian Crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019-2021 (the CHIS Bill, otherwise known as the "Spycops" Bill) was introduced in the House of Commons on September 24, 2020. It has just completed its Third Reading in the House of Lords on January 21.
Consideration of Lords amendments by the Commons was scheduled for January 27, when a number of the amendments were rejected. The amendments included:
An amendment limiting the Bill's application in Scotland had already been agreed by the government.
A House of Commons Library Research Briefing explains: "The main purpose of the Bill is to introduce a power in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to authorise conduct by officials and agents of the security and intelligence services, law enforcement, and certain other public authorities (covert human intelligence sources, or 'CHIS'), which would otherwise constitute criminality. These authorisations would be known as criminal conduct authorisations (CCAs). The existing non-statutory policy for authorising such conduct is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge. The Bill would place the activity on a statutory footing and would limit civil and criminal liability for those subject to authorisations." In other words, the Bill is to authorise criminal activity, including " murder, rape, torture, and perverting the course of justice", by undercover police agents and other intelligence services. This clearly also covers provocateur activity. It is somewhat ironic that this Bill is going through Parliament while there is a legal inquiry in session (though at present in recess) precisely on the activities of undercover agents, the Mitting Inquiry.
This Bill is going hand in hand with the passage through Parliament of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, at present at the Committee stage in the House of Lords, which gives immunity from prosecution to British soldiers for crimes including torture and genocide. That Bill would also protect the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State from legal claims to damages. Opposing this Bill, General Sir Nick Parker, former commander of British land forces, said that Britain "shouldn't be treating our people as if they have special protection from prosecution" and that it was vital for British soldiers to be seen be operating within the law.
Of course, neither of these Bills simply give the green light to criminal activities that had previously never happened. These criminal or undercover activities have not been an aberration. But it demonstrates the level of stripping away "civil rights" in favour of police powers, the legalising of what is by definition illegal.
On the Overseas Operations Bill, for example, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that the Bill comes into contradiction with Britain's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute and international customary law. "At a minimum," the Committee said, "the presumption against prosecution should be amended so that it does not apply to torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide."
The government has argued, especially with regard to the CHIS Bill, that the Human Rights Act exists which safeguards existing rights without the necessity to include them expressly in the Bill. This is, to put it mildly, ingenuous. The Bill will make the violators of these rights unaccountable in law. The Bill does not even consider the right of human beings to go about their business, speak out, resist injustice without being the target of undercover policing.
The power of allowing agents and informants working for MI5, as well as the police and other authorities, to break the law under a so-called "third direction" had been ruled illegal by the courts in 2018. The Home Office is now seeking to formalise this power in law by means of the CHIS Bill.
It is not that the Bill "goes too far". Powers are being enacted without limit. One MP in the debate on January 27 had this to say: "Only this morning, MI5 confirmed in court that it would authorise one of its informants to carry out murder as part of its activities. So much, frankly, for the safeguards of the Human Rights Act. If MI5 is willing to say that in court, where in this exercise is the protection of the Human Rights Act, which was the Government's defence last time and, indeed, the Minister's defence today?"
This underlines that in the mouths of the ruling elite, the "rule of law" is the rule of police powers, rule by exception, and the exception made permanent and declared the norm and the rule of law. The conventions of the constitution have been a veil to conceal the reality, which is that also these conventions no longer exist. This reality is that power is held by the rich, who use this power to claim that black is white and vice versa, almost literally. The force of law is given to the police powers and nothing else, which says that what is imposed must be regarded as lawful. Power cannot be shared between the people and the rich, meaning the oligarchs, all the private interests in whose interests parliament is acting. The clash constitutes the struggle of democracy, the clash between authority and modern conditions. Who decides what is in the national interest? Who decides what rights must be upheld and guaranteed as a matter of principle?
Workers' Weekly will be running a series of articles on the "rule of law", and the associated "sovereignty of parliament" and the "conventions of the constitution" in coming issues.
A 48-year-old Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) worker has tragically died after contracting Covid-19, it was reported on January 24. The sympathies of the Workers' Forum go out to his family and the rest of the workers who knew him. Even though it is not known with certainty whether he caught the virus at the Solihull Lode Lane factory where he worked, there have been concerns over safety at the plant, where West Midlands Police had visited twice in the space of a week just a fortnight earlier after reports of alleged Covid regulation breaches.
Police were sent to the Lode Lane plant on January 7 to ascertain whether the company, which employs some 7,000 people at the site, was following the lockdown rules laid down by government. After visiting, they quickly cleared the company of any wrongdoing. Returning just six days later on January 13, they again left "satisfied all safety measures and precautions were in place and being adhered to". This comes after 24 workers at the plant tested positive for the virus at the end of September last year. A deep clean was carried out at the factory and people who had been in close contact with the infected workers were told to self-isolate.
The death also comes just a week after a large Covid outbreak at the factory, which has not been widely reported. On January 17, local newspapers reported that hundreds of workers have been absent either on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of the outbreak. Incredibly, the company then redeployed around a hundred workers to Solihull from JLR Castle Bromwich to cover those absences. As a result, production of XE & WF was suspended at Castle Bromwich.
The "temporarily transfer" sparked fear among workers and their families, with one woman, whose husband works at Castle Bromwich, saying: "I don't know the exact figures but we've been told the number of workers off sick runs into the hundreds. I can't believe Tata expect their staff to carry on working in this situation. They have hundreds of staff going into work and leaving at the same time at this place. I have health conditions and I am so petrified my husband will bring Covid home. It's absolutely rife in the Solihull plant."
The company openly admitted what their outlook is on the situation. A JLR spokesperson said: "As part of business as usual, employees in the Midlands regularly move between manufacturing sites to ensure that we can meet global demand for our vehicles."
Bringing large numbers of people together under one roof is known to be a major hazard in Covid-19 transmission, especially of its new variant that appears to have originated in England. Suppliers are affected too and so is transport to and from work. Yet such concerns are brushed aside as the company is only interested in production.
Those in control of monopolies such as JLR and its parent Tata, and the government and ruling circles that represent such private interests, pose the issue as "balance", a balance between the health of what they call "the economy", or their particular privately-owned part of that economy, and the health of their workers and the people as a whole.
In the case of JLR, "Jaguar Land Rover's problems started long before the pandemic," says an Autocar article from December, "with its Charge and Accelerate and Charge plus programmes. Having been launched, as it scrabbled to save an almost inconceivable £2.5 billion in 18 months back in 2018, as Chinese and American sales slumped. The collapse of diesel hit it especially hard. Its sales mix having peaked at around 90% of the total". Thousands of job losses followed. 
As Workers' Weekly pointed out last July: "The future of Jaguar is under threat, it is reported. India-based parent company Tata Motors is considering the future of its so-called loss-making subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Workers cannot accept that the solution, as they are being told, is that they themselves have to pull out all the stops to work flexibly to get costs down and increase productivity". 
Cuts in workforce, wrecking of the manufacturing base, was then quite conceivable, and an acceptable commercial decision. Workers are viewed as expendable, and this is shown in the attitude towards their jobs and their very lives. Tata's narrow private interests do not include the rights of workers to a livelihood, or indeed their lives.
To present the issue as "balance" is fraudulent. There is no "balance" in dealing with the virus, and there can be no "business as usual". Conditions demand a change in the direction of the economy right here and right now. There is no weighing up one thing against another. The needs of people and their lives should come first, and their livelihoods should be guaranteed.
Alongside and as part of this "balance" is that health is posed as an individual matter. This is also out of step with the conditions, which demand that the health of each individual is a collective matter, a matter of social responsibility.
Particularly at this time, it is crucial that society and the economy mobilise to protect the health of every individual, so that people are not left to fend for themselves. There is much that manufacturing workers can do if mobilised with this aim. Production and the economy must be geared towards ensuring that what is necessary, in any sector, is what is produced. Further, working conditions should be determined by the workers who work in them. Workers, henceforth, should be central to decision-making regarding production and all matters that affect their lives, and society as a whole.
1. Inside the industry: Covid provides fresh start for Jaguar Land Rover, Autocar, December 7, 2020
2. Defending the Rights and Interests of Jaguar Land Rover Workers, Workers' Weekly, July 4, 2020
There has been widespread outrage at the recent killing of Seyoum Mesfin, from 1991-2010 the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, by the armed forces of the current government of Ethiopia. However, it was noticeable that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made no public statement on the killing either during or following his recent visit to Ethiopia. It appears that Seyoum Mesfin was assassinated with two other leading members of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), former Federal Affairs Minister Abay Tsehaye and ex-parliamentary chief whip Asmelash Woldeselassie, in circumstances that remain unclear. Tigray is still cut off from the outside world by the Ethiopian government, which has prevented all communication with the region.
The Ethiopian government claimed that the three men were killed when they refused to surrender to government forces, although five other members of the TPLF were detained alive at the same time. Whatever the circumstances, there can be no justification for the execution of leading politicians, who were elderly civilians, nor for the use of the army in such a manner to resolve political differences. Such acts of force strongly suggest that the aim of the Ethiopian government can be characterised as eliminating the TPLF as a political force within Ethiopia. According to this government's own reports, it has already killed the Tigray regional state's former police commissioner and fourteen other leading members of the TPLF, and captured several others including the former president and vice-president of Tigray, as well as Sebhat Nega, one of the organisation's founders.
The recent action of the Ethiopian army is a continuation of that which took place at the end of last year and amounted to an invasion and military conquest of Tigray by the central government, based on a number of pretexts. What was referred to as a policing operation arose out of political differences between the TPLF, which was the governing party in the state of Tigray, and the central government over constitutional matters relating to the democratic rights of the people of Tigray to vote and elect their own government, as well as the defence of the constitutional rights of all Ethiopians. The TPLF had fought for many years to end the arbitrary and undemocratic rule of the previous military rulers of Ethiopia. It introduced the first democratic elections in Ethiopiaand established mechanisms for the people to participate in governance and to deliberate over and decide the nature of Ethiopia's constitution. As the leading force in the governing Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, it led many important political and economic developments in Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018. No doubt it made mistakes and had its weaknesses, but it did not act in the arbitrary and violent manner of the current regime, headed by the Nobel peace laureate Abiy Ahmed, which has removed the elected state government of Tigray by military might and is now hunting and killing its leading members, as well as those of the TPLF.
The military conflict in Tigray shows no signs of cessation, despite the claims of the central government, and is now reported to be responsible for over 2.5m people fleeing their homes, a third of Tigray's population. There are 60,000 refugees who have fled to Sudan, as well as 5,000 Eritrean refugees within Tigray. The UN is still demanding access to the region to deliver food aid and is reporting that troops under the direction of the Ethiopian government are destroying crops and livestock. Even the new interim administration in Tigray has reported that some children have died of hunger and that 4.5m people are urgently in need of emergency food aid. The UN Secretary-General's representative on sexual violence issued a statement expressing concern about reports of widespread rape in Tigray, including in refugee camps, and demanded that UN monitors be allowed entry to the region. There have also been reports of the destruction and looting of important cultural sites and other atr ocities and violations of international law.
There is every sign that a war has been unleashed not only against the TPLF but also against the entire people of Tigray. There are also numerous reports that foreign troops, from both Eritrea and Somalia, have been deployed in this war, while the Ethiopian government stands accused of persecuting Tigrayans and their supporters throughout Ethiopia. In addition, the Ethiopian government continues to act in an oppressive manner in regard to the peoples and regions of other parts of Ethiopia.
In Britain and many other countries, Ethiopians and Eritreans have joined together to condemn the actions of the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Tigray, to call for an end to the violence and to demand the immediate delivery of food and other humanitarian aid. They have also recognised that it will be through their own efforts, as well those of other democratic people throughout the world, that the situation in Ethiopia will be changed for the better. This is the case today just as it was in the recent past when the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea overcame many difficulties created by oppressive governments, chiefly through their own self-reliant struggles.
January 25 marked a global day of action where over 300 organisations from 28 countries signed the call to action against the war on Yemen, which according to the organisers made this the biggest international anti-war co-ordination since the campaign against the Iraq war .
Even though, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the planned physical protests were postponed, many were able to go ahead across the US and other countries, and this global movement was not to be silenced . One of the main highlights of the day was The World Says No to War on Yemen Global Online Rally, hosted by Stop the War UK, which was attended online by many thousands of people across the world, on many social media platforms and broadcast on one TV station across the Middle East to over a million viewers. The rally brought together a group of prominent voices from across the world to speak out against this utterly brutal war and call for its immediate end.
The Rally was chaired by Aisha Jumaan and Chris Nineham, and addressed by Ahmed Al-Babati (British-Yemeni Soldier), Dr Shireen Aladeimi, Apsana Begum MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John Finucane MP (Sinn Féin), Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition), Jehan Hakim (Yemeni Alliance Committee), Kate Hudson (CND), Rep Ro Khanna, Esa Mighty, Daniele Obono (French National Assembly Member), Yanis Varoufakis (MeRA25 Secretary-General), Dr Cornel West (Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and holding the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University).
The shockingly under-reported war in Yemen has led to the death of 230,000 people and created the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world according to the UN. They estimate that more than 24 million people in the country, which was already one of the poorest on the planet prior to the war, will need humanitarian assistance in 2021.
The war is led by Saudi Arabia, with the involvement of the UAE, but it is backed by some key Western powers - the US, Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Canada. In particular, the US and Britain have maintained unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia since the war began and are both participants in the war.
This protest was timed to take place just days after the inauguration of Joe Biden, who has promised to end US backing for the war. The rally called on President Biden to make good on his promises to immediately overturn Trump's designation of who it sees is a terrorist organisation, to hold him to his word and force fellow governments to follow suit. Jeremy Corbyn MP, now an Independent, also spoke about the letter to the Prime Minister of Apsana Begum MP and the Early Motion he had lodged  signed by 10 MPs in Parliament on the day of action which "calls upon the Government to end all support for the war and suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately".
The day of action has highlighted the condemnation of Britain for its continued intervention and its role in the Coalition which continues to create such death and devastation in Yemen. It is recognised as one of the worst humanitarian crises anywhere in the world, in which Britain has had a major role in creating. The day of action opposed Britain's continuing to supply weapons and hands-on military advisors to Saudi Arabia, weapons then used for the bombing of Yemen. It demonstrated once again that Britain urgently needs an anti-war government.
1. Joint Statement: World Says No to War on Yemen
2. The World Says No to War on Yemen Protests
3. A a video of the speakers and actions being called for can be accessed here:
4. Yemeni human rights and Saudi arms sales
from Stop the War, January 24, 2021
Inside Yemen, 2020 was characterised by the further worsening of its social catastrophe, and the deepening fiasco of the Saudi intervention. On January 14, 2021, Mark Lowcock, the UN's Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, reported to the UN Security Council. In a country of 30 million people, he stated, 16 million will go hungry this year. Immediately, 50,000 are starving to death, and he said "...another 5 million are just one step behind them".
It is difficult to grasp the depth and extent of the crisis. According to the World Bank, Yemen's Gross Domestic Product was $42 billion in 2015. By 2019, this figure fell to $22billion. Figures for 2020 are not yet available, but a further fall is inevitable given the impact of the war, Covid, floods, cholera, locusts, and the continued siege of the country. Since the start of the war, the population of one of the world's poorer countries has had their living standards more than halved.
Over 250,000 Yemenis have died as a result of combat, associated diseases, and hunger. Around 3.8 million have been displaced.
Inevitably in war it is the most vulnerable who bear the biggest burden. According to a report published in December 2020 by the UN Population Fund, there are 1.2 million pregnant and breast-feeding women who are acutely malnourished. The war has led to the closure of more than half of Yemen's medical facilities. Of those that remain, only twenty per cent offer maternal and child health care services. One woman and six newborns die in childbirth every two hours. Six out of ten births take place without a skilled attendant.
Incredibly, 2020 saw a reduction in aid to Yemen. The UN's programme for the year required $3.4 billion. At the end of December only $1.7 billion had been received. This was because in March President Trump cut US aid, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates followed suit. According to Mark Lowcock, the UN had been helping 13.5 million Yemenis, but because of the cuts this was reduced to 9 million by year end.
This takes place against the continuing fiasco of the Saudi/UAE led war. 2020 saw continued armed action between Coalition "partners". Despite big diplomatic efforts by the Saudi regime, there has been no reduction in the fundamental difference between the militias armed by the Saudis, and those armed by the UAE. Just this week the Southern Transitional Council (funded by UAE) rejected recent ministerial appointments of the supporters of ex-President Hadi (funded by the Saudis). Armed conflict broke out in Aden between these forces. After six years, the Coalition, which is supported by the US and British governments, continues to be at war with itself.
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